Worcester State University Faculty Led Morocco Program – 2013 (Day 4)
Another brief sleep — there is no time to sleep when you are traveling! My fiancé Christopher and I were getting used to packing and unpacking. Honestly, our advice to you before your leave for Morocco is to pack your things. Then pack half of that amount. Then, pack half of THAT amount. That is how much you truly NEED to bring to Morocco. There are opportunities to pay to launder your clothing at the hotels if you need to wash.
—- *Blog Photographs are Courtesy of Christopher Lippmann, one of thirteen WSU Morocco 2013 Travelers | **Video Links are short ‘clips’ uploaded from the entire WSU Group to our WSU Flickr Account to enhance the blog experience. —-
A small plastic bag that you can carry all of your toiletries in is super handy so that you don’t have to dig through your luggage for different items. Also, a roll of toilet paper is a plus. Anyway, I digress again…
The morning was sunny and warm. We walked around trying to find a
shop that sold water before our drive to Volubilis or the Roman Ruin Outpost north of where we were staying. All of the shops were closed because we had woken up so early. Many shops do not open until much later in the morning. This didn’t deter us from leaving though. We took off and some of us caught a quick cat nap during the drive.
Personally, I was too excited to see the ruins and I was amazed by the landscape on La Route Nationale (the road from Fes to Volubilis). This wasn’t much of a highway, in fact it was just a two way road with many shepherds tending flocks in the hills. It was very scenic and the hills were a patchwork of colors. The poppy fields were beautiful with the bright red flowers.
We stopped in the Low Atlas Mountains in order to take pictures of a man made dam. Christopher was our unofficial photographer and was unable to catch cat naps during our travels between destinations – but he didn’t mind much. He ended up moving to the front of the van with Adil in order to capture better photographs. We saw many agave plants, roaming animals and random bumpy roads.
Finally, after what seemed like forever but was probably only about an hour and a half, we arrived at Volubilis.
- Our first glimpse of the Roman Ruin Outpost of Volubilis.
I will not write about it here – but if you ever happen to get a chance to visit these Roman Ruins, look in all of the enclaves where the stone walls are slowly caving in. There is a stone pedestal with something carved into the top which is hilarious. We had a lot of fun in this location with pictures to say the least, but I cannot share what it is we found. Go see for yourself!
As the rest of the group ran ahead, I became amazed at the different types of flowers that were growing all around that I had never seen before so I stopped to collect a bunch to press inside of my little black notebook where I was taking notes about our travels.
There were many different mosaic masterpieces just open to the elements. The rain and air on top of this hill have had an impact on the mosaics but they were incredible. It is a pity that they were not more protected, but very beautiful to see in their natural element unmoved from the time where they were first laid by the Romans.
After our short stay in Volubilis, our travel group jumped back into the van to visit Moulay Idriss — the city on the mountain. This city was really neat to visit! The cobblestone streets zigged and zagged up the side of a mountain and many of the alleyways cut right through the buildings and the stone wall of the mountain itself. Many people looked out of their homes curiously at us. I don’t think that too many tourists visit this location. It certainly seemed off of the beaten path. At one point, Omar and Mohamed were kicking around a soccer ball with some local teenagers. It was fun to see how sports break down verbal barriers. Everyone knows the language of sports.
Omar, Mohamed and Christopher kick around a soccer ball with the Moulay Idriss kids: http://www.flickr.com/photos/97085118@N08/10831173475/
Half of our group got separated from the rest because we kept stopping to take photos. It wasn’t our fault that we were fascinated by a donkey with a refrigerator tied to its back! Omar was able to guide us back by his very distinct whistle. Moulay Idriss is definitely one of the oldest cities in Morocco. We took photos above the city. I happened to have charcoal in a art kit in my backpack so we scrawled ‘WSU Was Here!’ on the wall where there was a lot of other graffiti scribbled.
AJ gave Mohamed a heart attack at this location by getting too close to the edge of the cliff to take pictures. It was such a far drop! A running joke during our trip was that many people were falling in love with Casandra. We joked that by the next time we came back to visit Moulay Idriss together, the locals would have a statue of Casandra built in her honor.
By this time, our small group of student travelers were very comfortable with one another. Nobody knows when the moment was when we all connected. We were joking and laughing while walking around saying things like, “You’ll get great asses if you live here”… referring to hiking up the very steep walkways and double entendre referring to the donkeys for transportation.
By the time we came down the mountain and returned to the main street, we popped into a small store to buy some refreshment after our hike. We each paid a little extra at the shop to keep the glass bottles for Coke, Poms, and Hawai — the companies usually came by to recycle the bottles from the shops. We didn’t mind paying a little extra so that we could bring the bottles back to the U.S with us with the Arabic writing on them. They made for a unique souvenir.
One thing is for certain… never let a moment pass. When we were driving through the Low Atlas Mountains to head to Meknes, each of us glanced out the right hand side of the windows of the van and noticed a sprawling field of humongous sunflowers. Megan, Olivia and I both wished out-loud to stop so that we could go to the field. Mohamed heard us, talked quickly with our driver Adil, and the next thing we knew the van was swinging off to the side of the road in a cloud of dust. Mohamed said loudly, “Alright! You have ten minutes!” Half of us from the van were already out the door and running down the side of the hill.
We reached a drainage ditch and I couldn’t go any further because I was wearing a long skirt and flip flops (hardly the clothing to wear during adventure-time). Patrick, Megan, Christopher, Joe, and Olivia ran up the other side of the ditch and through massive prickers to take photos in the sunflower field and goof around.
Drove to Meknes
After stopping for a brief lunch, we visited a Community Center to visit students in Meknes. We had discussions about politics and exchanged ideas with like-minded individuals. We discussed languages, society, culture, education and religion. We talked about “Waiting for Superman” which is a documentary and educational system in the United States. After our meeting, we took photos with the group and exchanged email and Facebook information. You will never meet more friendly people than the people you will meet in Morocco.
Mohamed was a little worried that we were not going to be able to visit the Orphanage in Meknes because with everything that we did today we were a little delayed. Adil drove quickly from the meeting with students to reach the orphanage. We arrived on time and they let us in.
This was our opportunity to unload the bags of clothing and toys that we brought with us from the U.S. We unloaded the clothing into a small room and then were guided around the building to meet all of the children that reside there. Many children in this particular orphanage have special needs.
Outside in the play area, we gave candies to the children, picked them up and played with them. Tim gave the kids piggy back rides. As we were walking back into the building, the children started singing to us in another language. It made me cry.
When we went back into the orphanage, we were brought into a brightly lit room where cribs lined the walls. Babies lived here too. Recently, police men brought in a child that was only newborn — literally left in the street. The police had brought the baby to live at this orphanage. The stories we heard were heart-wrenching. Before we left, Patrick went around to collect a sum of our groups own money to donate to the orphanage coordinators in order to help with costs. The children were beautiful and I did not want to leave them behind.
Our drive from the orphanage to our hotel in Fes was very quiet and depressing. It gave us all a chance to reflect on what just happened. Surprisingly, we had a little bit of down time when we returned from the orphanage to relax for a bit before dinner. This was a good thing because some people in our group were starting to feel sick (myself included), so a short nap was welcome. After the nap, we all got ready for our dinner out and we dressed up in our Moroccan clothing that we purchased from the ‘sketchy’ people the night before.
Dinner was a wonderful experience. We ate dinner at a hotel called Riad Al Amine [Address: Riad Fes, 94,96 Bouajjara bab Jdid, Fes 30000, Morocco]. The lighting was gorgeous and low from lanterns hung all around and the light reflected off of the tiny tiles on the pillars around a sunken pool in the grand entry way. Low benches with plush pillows were scattered around the pool. There was a man playing an oud by the pool. An oud is a rounded string instrument that looks like a cross between a guitar and a banjo. It has seven strings doubled. It must be incredibly difficult to play. Later in the evening we had requested the man to play “Ya Rayah” and he played it beautifully on the oud. We were incredibly pleased to have requested this song and that he was able to play it for us while we were relaxing at the restaurant/hotel for dinner.
- Performer playing a fourteen string oud next to the pool accepts our request to play “Ya Rayah” and does a phenomenal job.
Over in a corner there was a woman who created beautiful artistic henna on the ladies’ hands. Casandra was first — when the henna was completed the lady sprinkled the still-wet henna with green and blue shimmery glitter as a finishing touch.
- Finished Henna – stunning!
- Casandra says, “I love my henna, but now how do I eat my dinner!?”
It must have been difficult to eat dinner because the henna was drawn on her palms and the outside of her hands. Casandra later confessed that Mohamed needed to cut up her food and feed bits and pieces to her during dinner later that night because the henna had not dried yet (it can take hours to develop good color).
We were given our own private key to a room to store our belongings. Once our things were stowed away, a gentleman came around and handed us all a drink called a “Moroccan Mojito” (sans alcohol) as Omar called it.
- Meghan, AJ, Joe, Tim, Mohammed and Omar partake in the non-alcoholic delightful beverage called a Moroccan Mojito.
Dinner was a dream in itself. We had bread and salad followed by course after course of delicious food! There was a course that had lamb and kefta (kefta is sort of like a squished steak/hamburger-like meatball) and chicken skewers. There were little packets of dough fried with pigeon and chicken meat with almonds called dfaya. Finally there was a fluffy, light layered flaky dessert with whipped cream inside which Mohamed explained is just a custard pie, Moroccan style.
This dinner was a great opportunity to get to know one another better. We all sat in a plush room with two main tables and shared stories. At one time, Mohamed was laughing so hard he almost puked. By far, this was the best sit down and relaxing dinner that we had had so far on our journey. We were able to wear our new jalabas and Moroccan clothing and enjoy a beautiful atmosphere in great company.
Today was a great day.